Haymitch hung up the phone.
Effie had asked him to cancel her monthly trip to the Capitol. Still in bed, it seemed she was more relaxed, but her nerves were more noticeable.
"Is she sure she doesn't want to push the trial back?" Plutarch had asked.
"No. I asked her again this morning. She just wants it over with. Anyway, I think it's the last thing on her mind right now."
"What makes you say that?"
Haymitch didn't want to tell him so he avoided the question.
The house was quiet.
Quieter than usual.
At times, Haymitch thought he could hear Effie breathing upstairs, working on some files for the Avox Recovery Program. Even if she wasn't going to the Capitol - she was going to do something. Anyway, it did take her mind of things.
Haymitch leaned against the kitchen counter.
Was that why she was doing all that work?
Not to distract herself but … because of what she had said at the healer's? Because of the past? Because of what she … what they would have to tell their child?
Would helping Avoxes and families make what she had done for all those years go away? No … but it would soften the blow, maybe.
How do you tell a child …
"They're going to think you can't take care of yourself," Effie said when Haymitch came into their room, saying he was going over to Peeta and Katniss'. "And we're not a charity case - hardly."
"I'm just goin' to talk to Katniss. And if they feed me … well, they feed me."
"Why do you want to talk to Katniss?"
"None of your business."
Effie laughed. "All right. Sorry. Go on."
"You gonna be okay by yourself?"
"I'm not confined to the bed, Haymitch. And you're not going far, are you? I'll be just fine."
Haymitch nodded and kissed her. "Cat needs to be fed."
"Just put a dish of milk out," Effie muttered as she went back to her work. "I'll take care of it in a bit."
"It's better she stays," Katniss said, putting on the coffee. "I think seeing the Capitol is probably the worst thing right now."
"Yeah … where's Peeta?"
Katniss shrugged. "Helping build … something. I don't know. I don't keep track. Why?"
"Wanted to talk to you."
"I told you what Eff said the other day at the healers and … I mean, I haven't really had a moment to myself but this morning I was in the kitchen and … it was quiet and I started thinking … I … how do I deserve this?"
"Any of this. Everything. Eff over in that house carrying my kid. Safety. Contentment? That isn't … it's not me."
"It's not what you're used to. And you're a jackass, but who's to say you don't deserve it? We've all been through a lot. You more than most."
"But I don't deserve it. I don't. Effie may have that guilt for calling out names … ushering those kids every year to …" He paused. "But she never killed anyone. I killed."
"So did I, Haymitch," Katniss said quietly.
"So what do we tell people?"
"What do you mean?"
"My child is going to grow up and find out that her father was a murderer -"
"How could I have thought I could actually be happy? How did I actually let myself think …" He shook his head. "Always a fucking catch …"
He could feel Effie's fingers gently combing through his dark hair as they lay in bed that night in silence. He felt her lips gently press against his shoulder, her head rest near his.
"Where did you go?" she asked after a yawn.
"After dinner. You went out to feed the geese and … you were gone for a while."
"I was … just thinking."
He'd gone to the shed where he was keeping the crib. It was a fine bit of craftsmanship - the small rose carvings were almost finished on the four side posts. He'd have Peeta paint them in.
"About what?" Effie asked.
"Nothing," Haymitch lied.
He had picked up an axe. He'd destroy it. He'd destroy the talent he had to learn to impress the Capitol. They could buy a crib. Buy a crib with the money … the axe fell to the ground.
"Must've been something. I started getting worried."
"You worry about everything. I was just thinking about making the hut for the geese bigger - that's all."
"Are they multiplying again?" Effie asked with a small laugh.
He'd never escape it. He'd never escape the Capitol. And neither would Effie. He steadied himself against the wall of the shed. He felt dizzy - dizzy with grief, with anxiety, with realization that he had been living in a dream. Not reality. A cold breeze came through the shed door. The hairs on his arms raised.
He needed to go back inside.
"Yeah," Haymitch answered her.
"We could give some away, you know. Peeta says there are new families moving into some of the newer houses."
"Why not … yeah … I'll see what I can do."
Effie turned to her head to look at him. She could see in his eyes that he was miles away. His hand rested on his chest - Effie reached over and laced her fingers with his. "I love you, Haymitch."